Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which he had performed most of his miracles, because the people there did not change their ways, “Alas for you Chorazin and Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I assure you, for Tyre and Sidon it will be more bearable on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead! For if the miracles which were performed in you had taken place in Sodom, it would still be there today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Contrary to popular belief, miracles do not automatically produce faith (because faith results from an essentially free decision), but it is rather faith that produces miracles. Let us consider these two ideas in turn.
The first idea is perfectly illustrated by Jesus’ comparison between, on the one hand, Tyre and Sidon (the traditional archetypes of impiety—cf. Is. 23; Ez 26—28) and, on the other hand, the lake towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida. The latter had witnessed many miracles of Jesus, yet had refused to believe in him. Jesus compares Tyre and Sidon to them favorably because their evil deeds resulted more from ignorance than from sheer malice.
The second idea is constantly illustrated by Jesus’ response to people who ask him to perform a miracle: “Let it be done to you according to your faith” (Cf. Mt 8:13; 9:29; Lk 7:50…)
At Lourdes (France) people witness the same miracles, yet some believe and some do not. Nothing can force faith—not even God, who respects our freedom too much to do that. The mindset of some basically honest and decent people is sometimes so conditioned (by a secular education, years of atheistic propaganda, etc.) that these people simply cannot make the leap of faith. Let us not look down on them. Maybe they would be better Christians than we are if they had experienced all that we have…
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